Monthly Archives: August 2011

Interlude – The Invitation

A/N: This is a special interlude with Seeley and Molly Moss (the simself of Rebecca Toast) from A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss. :) This is just a bit of fun, so it’s rather short. But yes. Enjoy! :D

It was a cold day in Meadow Glen.

A fire crackled merrily in the grate, spilling warmth into the otherwise chilly room. Though the sun shone outside, the light was frozen and weak.

Seeley Moss sat in his favourite chair by the fire, browsing the newspaper. Since he had retired from investigating and his children had all grown up, he often found himself with altogether too much time on his hands.

In recent weeks, his wife, Molly, had been telling him that he needed a hobby. Seeley privately agreed. In his more idle hours, his mind strayed back to the days where he would solve cases, big and small, for the members of the community. Though he had felt both drained and fulfilled after his showdown with Vincent Valentine Mason (although no one would believe that Seeley was anything less than heroic, much to his annoyance), and though he had been happy and thankful to retire, Seeley sometimes felt the familiar itch. He sometimes felt the hunger for the thrill of the chase, the pure adrenaline of the game. He missed the finesse, the dance and battle of intelligent minds.

His fingers twitched on the paper. There must be something, something that he could set his mind to. Molly didn’t have to know…

His eyes stopped on a tiny paragraph, nestled between an advertisement for a local eating contest (maybe that was worth looking into?) and one for a local escort company (definitely not worth looking into).

Local girl, Susannah Moss, daughter of retired private investigator, Seeley Moss, is working her way up the ladder in Riverview. Not only is her band, Sienna Dreams, starting to become noticed by the Riverview music industry, Susannah is getting married! Our hawk-eyed contact spotted her shopping for wedding dresses with an unidentified male companion. It seemed that her companion was too young to be her future husband, and speculation is rife about the identity of the mystery groom.

Seeley shook his head in disgust. Couldn’t these vultures leave his children alone?

And then, the words of the article started to sink in.

Susannah. Getting married.

A mystery groom.

What?!

***

An hour later, Seeley found himself staring into the fire, his mind wearily treading the same circular paths.

Why hadn’t Susie contacted them? As far as he was aware, she hadn’t even told them that she had a boyfriend, though Molly was more likely to know about that sort of thing than he was.

And who was this guy who dared to think he could marry his daughter without the courtesy of meeting him first?

“Seeley, I have something I need to -”

“Molly, we’re going to Riverview. I need to give our daughter’s fiancé a piece of my mind.”

Molly blinked at him.

“How did you -”

But Seeley wasn’t listening.

“I may be older than that guy (I hope), but I still have it!”

“Seeley… you do know you look ridiculous, right?”

“Maybe a little bit…”

“But that doesn’t change the fact we’re going to Riverview. I won’t let him get away with this. I’ll find out if he’s suitable for our Susie, you mark my words.” He paused. “I can’t believe Susie didn’t tell us.”

And, with that, he strode out of the door, his mind fixed on his purpose.

Molly stared after him, feeling distinctly baffled. She had almost forgotten what Seeley could be like when he truly set his mind to something.

Smiling to herself, she shook her head.

She would tell him about the wedding invitation that had arrived with that morning’s post on the drive over. Of course, Susie had discussed her boyfriend with Molly on several occasions and Molly, in turn, had mentioned him to Seeley.

But it seemed as though Seeley had conveniently forgotten that.

Molly had to smile to herself.

Her silly husband, deaf to all sense and reason when he was hot on the trail of a potential case. She hadn’t seen him so worked up, so… happy in a long while.

She knew that it was largely guilt about what had happened to Camille that had stopped Seeley from investigating, though he pretended otherwise. It was nice that he had something… well, frivolous, to focus on, rather than chasing ghosts. He had done more than enough of that for one lifetime.

After all, there was no way that this Gabriel could have a skeleton in his closet as big as Vincent Mason.

With that decisive thought, Molly took the car keys (which Seeley had forgotten in his hurry) off the hook and followed her husband out into the cold sunshine.

To Riverview, then.

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Filed under Gen 1

1.05 – Family

A/N: This is a long chapter, so grab a snack and a cup of tea and settle down comfortably. :) Be warned, there’s a small bit of ADULT CONTENT near the beginning.

Also, thanks to Deeds and orangeplumbob for ideas throughout the chapter.

This is dedicated to Mama Bear. :D

Though I’d not yet being able to grow anything remotely harvestable, my plants were thriving. Some of the tomato plants had actually borne tiny green fruit, but overnight they had been eaten by some animal or another. I knew that I would have to get the fence fixed soon if I was ever going to sell anything at all, but to fix the fence I actually needed to sell some vegetables. It was a bit of a dilemma.

I guess I would just have to hope for the best.

Hopefully, the promising looking lettuces wouldn’t be as tempting as my fledgling tomatoes were to the enterprising wildlife of Riverview.

“Hey, Gabriel!”

I started at the voice, and turned to see Susie standing by the mailbox and waving enthusiastically. Smiling, I waved back, hoping belatedly that it didn’t seem as though I was threatening her with my trowel.

“I thought we could have breakfast together!” she called across the lawn. “I bought croissants!”

I laughed at that. Susie and I had been dating properly for about a month now, and she did everything in her power to make sure that – every day – I ate something that wasn’t salad.

I was about to shout back that breakfast sounded fun when Kami appeared.

And she didn’t look happy.

“What are you doing here?” she demanded, striding up to Susie with eyes that flashed. “This isn’t some house for waifs and strays, you know.”

It was then that I remembered I had never mentioned to Kami that Susie and I were dating, or even that I had a girlfriend. Oops. It was just as well I’d told Susie about Kami on one of our dates, otherwise the situation could have become really awkward.

Susie put her hands on her hips, staring Kami down.

“Excuse me? Last I heard, you were the waif that came barging in here looking for a place to stay.”

“That’s different, Gabriel is my -”

How is it different?” Susie broke in, before Kami could reveal exactly what I was. “You came here and demanded a room, forcing both those boys to sleep on the floor night after night. I’m only here for breakfast.”

“What the hell would you know about anything, you tarty country bumpkin! You don’t even know the first thing about me and Gabriel! You don’t know him like I do!”

“I know a hell of a lot more than you think, you, er – city trash!”

“You know nothing, stupid slut!”

It was about at this point of the argument that I vaulted the fence with the intention of putting a stop to it.

Well, I say vaulted.

It was more of an awkward climb, and my hoodie got stuck on one of the broken fence posts. And I might possibly have fallen hard on my butt. Maybe. I was never going to be a champion at hurdles, at any rate.

But you’re probably more interested in the fight. I didn’t hear much more of what was said after that particular venomous barb, as I was trying to free myself from the fence. But… what I did hear led me to believe that the fight was about me, which confused me.

What had I done to make them both so angry?

By the time I’d scrambled to my feet, Kami had moved and slapped Susie hard around the face. Susie stumbled back as though she was about to fall over, but managed to regain her balance.

Anger rose within my chest at the sight. No one was allowed to hit my Susie. No one.

Enough was enough.

I approached and they broke off screaming at each other to stare at me – maybe they had forgotten I was there?

“Kami,” I said, with as much courage as I could muster. “I let you stay in my house and do pretty much what you want, but I won’t stand for you hitting my girlfriend.”

Kami’s eyes narrowed, but she didn’t speak. It looked as though she was struggling to hold back tears. I had been rather blunt, I admit.

Then, abruptly, she turned on her heel and ran back into the house. I stared after her, rather bewildered.

“I don’t think I should stay for breakfast,” Susie said quietly, snapping my attention back to her. “I’ve caused enough problems for one morning.”

“Don’t say that,” I said, and reached for her, but she backed away.

Her hands flew up as though she was shielding herself.

“Don’t, Gabe. Just don’t.”

My heart sank.

“What did she say to you, Susie?”

Susie shook her head.

“I know she’s your friend, Gabe, but it seems to me that she has the entirely wrong idea. And I’m not coming around here again until she’s gone.”

“Susie…”

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Gabe,” Susie said quietly, before she turned and strode purposefully away.

I watched her go, feeling as though I’d swallowed a lead weight.

Why did women have to be so complicated?

I went back into the house with the intention of giving Kami a piece of my mind.

It seemed, however, that she had exactly same idea.

“What the hell was that, Lucas?”

“Gabriel,” I corrected automatically, and blinked at her. “What the hell was what?”

“That – that woman! I thought you loved me!”

I stared at her, the pieces slowly falling into place in my mind.

“What?” I said. “No, no – I mean, I did, but I moved on, Kami. I moved on because you were happy with Mike, and I met Susie.”

“That’s total bullshit!” she snapped. “Don’t you think I saw how you looked at me that first night, Gabriel? Like you wanted to take me right then and there. And don’t you dare fucking deny it,” she added, when I opened my mouth to speak. “We both know I’m right.”

I swallowed, trying to form a coherent response through my shock.

“Okay, I admit I still had feelings for you then, but we’re too different, Kami. You don’t want to be stuck in this small town forever. And I love Susannah.”

“You’re a total bloody pig, Lucas,” Kami sniffed, tears threatening to spill from her eyes.

On impulse, I moved and wrapped my arms around her. She stiffened in my grip for  a moment, before relaxing and pressing her face into my neck.

“I hate you,” she whispered. “I hate you and – and I love you. I thought – I thought I had a chance of happiness with you, Luc.”

“I’m sorry,” I told her softly, closing my eyes against the ache in my heart. “But I’m not Lucas any more. That life is over.”

Kami pulled away after a moment, all trace of tears gone. She walked with purpose to the mirror, quietly brushing her hair with her fingers.

“I found a job at the bistro,” she told me quietly. “I meant to say last night, but you were already asleep.”

I moved and sat on the bed, hugging my knees.

“Well… that’s good, right?”

Kami ignored me and I bit my tongue.

“One of my new co-workers is looking for a room mate. Her old one’s just moved to Twinbrook, and she offered me a viewing of the place.”

I shifted uncomfortably.

“You know, you don’t have to move out, Kami. I wasn’t saying that -”

She cut me off, the words spat out with deadly accuracy.

“I know when I’m not wanted. You don’t have to say anything.” She sighed and looked at me. “I’m going to take her up on her offer.”

I sighed and flopped back on the bed, not sure what to say to that. I felt as though I had failed as a friend, though I wasn’t sure what I could have done differently. I loved Susannah, and my feelings for Kami had been fading with each passing day.

She was a good friend to me, but I knew that she could never be anything more.

I think she knew that too.

“I just… I don’t get it, Lucas.”

I shifted on the bed, saying, “Don’t get what?”

She turned to look at me again, anger and pain at war on her face.

“You never once told me that you had a girlfriend. Why would you even hide something like that?”

I had no answer to that – why had I hidden Susie’s existence from Kami for so long? What was I afraid of?

“I don’t know.”

The words came out as a whisper, and Kami’s face changed. Now, she only looked sad.

My breath caught as she climbed on top of me, straddling one of my legs and pressing it between the warmth of her thighs.

“We’d be good together, Lucas,” she murmured, as I stared at her in mute surprise. “If you’d only give me a chance.”

I looked up and met her eyes.

“Kami, I can’t – please, get off me.” My protest sounded weaker than I would have liked. “I mean it.”

I tried to sit up, but Kami’s fingers deftly unzipped my trousers.

“What are you -”

My question was cut off by a hurriedly strangled moan as her palm pressed firmly against me. Stupidly, I could only think about the fact that Jamie was still in the house. Kami’s hand moved and my breath quickened as she stroked me through the suddenly too-tight fabric of my boxers.

“Mm, you gotta stop, Kami,” I mumbled, my words slurring together as they reluctantly left my mouth.

But she didn’t stop, and her hand slid into my underwear, fingers caressing my skin and drawing a gasp from my lips. For a moment, I didn’t want her to stop. I wanted to give in and let her continue, to make me feel and forget everything else. I wanted to bury myself in the heat of her and fuck what the rest of the world thought.

And then I thought of Susie and how she tasted of sunshine.

“Stop,” I said more forcefully, gripping Kami’s wrists and pushing her hands away.

This time, she listened.

Kami stood up, eyeing me with clear distaste.

“You don’t know what you want, do you, Lucas?”

I shook my head, but I couldn’t look up. I couldn’t meet her eyes.

“I know I want Susie, and I know that’s not going to change.”

Kami turned away, tears rolling down her cheeks, and I felt my stomach clench with guilt.

“Goodbye, Lucas.”

I watched her go, feeling cold and guilty. I hated what I’d said to her (even though it was the truth), but I couldn’t let my relationship with Susie be ruined. Sure, I was as scared as hell of one day being left hurt and lonely, but the feeling of being in love was worth it. Like the feeling of being submerged in a warm bath before having to get out, out into the inevitably freezing bathroom.

The front door slammed and I flinched.

Maybe this is where my parents went wrong.

Love.

***

Evening found me by the pond in my garden, fishing. I had spent most of the day floating around the house in a daze, drifting from room to room and moping. I pined for Susie and Kami in turn, as though some heavy pendulum of guilt had taken up residence in my heart.

Jamie had left me to sulk all afternoon, but, as the sun began to set, he came outside.

“You know, dinner’s going to get cold,” he said, and his lips twitched in a smile.

Salad doesn’t get cold.

“I’m not hungry,” I said. I knew that I was being ridiculous, but I didn’t care. I felt weary and sick at heart. “I’m sorry, Jamie. I just need to be alone for a while.”

Without speaking, Jamie turned and ran back into the house.

He reappeared after a little while with the spare fishing rod.

“You know,” he said, as he cast out his line over the pond. “Misery loves company.”

“Is that right?” I said begrudgingly, but, really, I was glad he had come back.

And Jamie knew it.

“Are there actually any fish in this pond?” he asked, after a stretch of silence.

“I don’t know. I thought I saw an alligator once, though.”

“Seriously?!”

“No.”

I’m not a religious man, but I thanked God every day for Jamie.

“We should probably go in soon,” I said, as the sun dipped behind the horizon.

It was getting cold now, and neither of us had managed to get a single bite. It looked as thought there were no fish after all.

“Besides,” I added. “You said something about dinner…”

My stomach growled in agreement, and Jamie laughed.

“Hungry now, are you?”

“Maybe…”

Jamie laughed again and dropped his fishing rod on the ground, before leaping on my back. His legs wrapped themselves firmly around my waist.

“You can carry me in. As punishment for sulking.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yes.”

“You’re such a pain, Jamie.”

I really didn’t know what I’d do without him.

***

Thankfully, Susie put her argument with Kami behind her and forgave me for whatever I’d done wrong. She began to come around almost every day again, and my days felt like they had purpose.

It was as though that whole incident had never happened, and every day I found myself falling further and further in love.

“I’ve been thinking,” Susie said one day. “About you and Jamie.”

This confused me. A lot of things confused me when it came to Susie.

“What about me and Jamie?”

Susie smiled.

“Well, I have some money put aside and… well, I think it’s about time Jamie got his own room. Don’t you?”

I stared at her.

“Seriously?”

“I think both of you have had just about enough of sleeping on the floor, am I right? Besides, I’ve been saving this money for a rainy day and well, I think we’re going somewhere, don’t you, Gabe? We need to start thinking about the future.”

Squashing the faint flutterings of panic in my chest (they had stirred at the mention of a ‘future’), I moved and kissed Susie gently on the lips.

“I love you, Susie.”

It was the first time I’d said the words aloud. Susie’s eyes widened in surprise and colour flooded to her cheeks and I felt at that moment that my confession was entirely worth it.

Unexpectedly, she then leapt up into my arms. I just about managed to catch her and – luckily – did not drop her. I don’t think I would have been very popular if I had.

She moved to kiss me again and I was suddenly overcome with the overwhelming urge to clean my teeth. What if my breath smelled bad? What if there were bacteria on my teeth and I infected Susie and she died?!

“Um, do you mind if I go and clean my teeth quickly?”

She pulled back, eyes narrowing.

“Are you saying my breath smells?”

“What?! No, I -“

“Right, that’s it, Gabe. I challenge you to a pillow fight.”

Grabbing a couple of pillows, Susie stalked outside, though I caught a glimpse of a smile on her face. Warily, I followed and, as soon as I was in range, she turned and started beating me with the pillow.

“This! Will! Teach! You!” she said, punctuating each word with a thwack.

I grabbed the other pillow to defend myself with.

“I didn’t mean it like that!” I protested, but Susie laughed and smacked me around the head again with her pillow.

“Wait, wait, I need to recover.”

“Hahaha, I can’t believe you fell for that.”

“No! I’m sorry! Don’t hurt me!”

Needless to say, Susie won.

***

The next week, Jamie’s class had a week’s field trip to Sunset Valley to learn about the beach’s eco system, and Susie thought it would be the perfect time to build and decorate Jamie’s new room. This way, it could be a surprise for when he came back.

I wasn’t trusted to help with the building work (especially after I annoyed the builders by triple checking everything was safe and secure), so Susie sent me with some money down to the local consignment store in search of furniture.

It was a big place, and I wasn’t exactly sure what I was looking for, so I approached the man at the till, hoping he could help me out. Unfortunately, he seemed much more interested in checking out a couple of teenage girls that had wandered into the shop than listening to me.

Creep.

Eventually I called Susie and she came to help me out.

Susie chose this brightly coloured painting to hang up in the living area. She really seemed to like it, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that they looked like rainbow eyeballs. I didn’t have the heart to tell her it creeped me out, though I made a point of scuttling through the living room as quickly as possible.

I hated being watched.

Jamie’s room was finished with time to spare. It was a bit sparse, but done in bright blue with a desk for him to do his homework on. There was still enough space in the bedroom for more furniture when we could afford it, but this would have to do for now.

I hoped that Jamie would like what we had done.

As a finishing touch, I had found a music box in the consignment store and insisted on buying it for him, though Susie wasn’t sure why he would want a music box with a mummy in it.

Susie was also insistent on shuffling my room around, even going so far as to purchase a double bed. She said it would come in handy if she ever decided to stay the night.

I got rather flustered at that, but she pretended not to notice.

As it turned out, Susie stayed the night several times that week, but nothing came of it. Well, nothing sexual at least. We both had decided that we wanted to wait until marriage before we took that final step. Besides, both of us agreed that we wanted that stability (what little marriage offered, anyway) before we did anything that could possibly result in children.

Even though having children was a completely weird idea. Not to mention the idea of marriage. A year ago, the thought never would have even crossed my mind.

It got to the point when it was weird not to have Susie there. Whether she was giving me random hugs when I came in all sweaty and dirty from the garden (I know, I was surprised the first time too) or whether she was just off in her own world, strumming away on her guitar, I grew used to her.

Perhaps ‘forever’ was not such a scary idea after all?

***

The week without Jamie seemed to stretch on and on, but eventually he came home.

He was obviously excited to tell us all about what had gone on during his field trip, but Susie and I patiently deflected his chatter and chivvied him towards his new room.

There was a rather stunned silence as he took in what we had done.

“Omigosh! This is totally amazing!”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” he babbled, coming and hugging us each tightly in turn.

I couldn’t help but smile, and Susie grinned at me. We had achieved our goal and made Jamie happy, at least for a little while.

“I love you guys!”

Yes, he was happy all right, and it made me happy to see him like that.

Unfortunately, Jamie had a mountain of homework from the field trip, which made his mood falter a bit, but at least he had a nice room to do it in now.

To celebrate Jamie’s return, Susie insisted on cooking us dinner. She even agreed to make salad, though (as she pointed out) she really didn’t have much choice about that. I sat and chatted to her whilst she chopped vegetables, unable to tear my eyes away from her.

It was just so domestic and she was so beautiful.

I felt my heart soar watching her.

We sat down to dinner together and, for the first time in a long while, I felt complete.

I had a family.

I was home.

***

Soon after the field trip to Sunset Valley, much to my amazement and joy, Jamie began to bring friends home after school. The friend he brought home most often was a girl named Jenna.

When I questioned him about her, he blushed a brilliant red and mumbled something about her tutoring him in science.

Thinking back to the last time I tried to help Jamie with science homework, this seemed like a very sensible idea.

“Jamie, didn’t you listen to anything Miss Deeds said about electrons?”

“Er… they’re small?”

Yep, a very sensible idea indeed.

Even though Jenna rolled her eyes at Jamie’s lack of scientific knowledge, the two of them quickly became close friends. It was not an uncommon sight to see them working together on their homework in the living area, laughing and chatting about different students and teachers at the school.

Sometimes, if I was lucky, I’d catch a glimpse of Jamie’s secret smile. The one he seemed to reserve just for her.

Though it was not always sunshine and rainbows as far as Jamie was concerned. Often, late at night, I would hear him sobbing quietly in his room. It was at those moments that I felt the most lost. Though I’d read his story and cried for him, he had never shown any sign of wanting to talk about any of it.

I hoped one day he would be able to talk to someone out loud about what happened, even if that someone was not me.

It was on nights like those that I held Susie close, feeling cold and frightened. Thinking about Jamie inevitably led me to think about myself, and that inevitably led me to thinking about everything I hadn’t told Susie.

What would she think of me when she found out the truth? Should I tell her and get it over with?

No, I would think. Better to keep it hidden and never let her find out.

And so another night would pass with Susie left in blissful ignorance and with me holding her, anxious and sleepless.

Most of the time, however, I didn’t think about it. I knew that I was living a lie and I justified my silence with the belief that I was protecting Susie. After all, if she didn’t hate me and give me over to the police straight away, she would have to spend the rest of her life lying for me.

And I couldn’t do that to her.

No, I had to protect her.

I couldn’t – wouldn’t – admit to myself that it was the fear of losing her that stilled my tongue above all else.

Meanwhile, the war in my head was often overshadowed by a bigger problem – my war against the house. Or rather, its war against me.

“Aaaaah! We’re all going to drown! Run, run for the hills!”

“Oh, calm down, you big baby,” Susie told me, pushing past me armed with a spanner. “Watch how the ‘man of the house’ deals with it.”

God, I loved that woman.

***

“So, Mr Nesaren. Why do you think you have what it takes to marry my daughter?”

“Er, Jamie… why are you speaking in that horribly gruff voice?”

“I’m preparing you for the worst.”

“Oh, all right… Um, hi, Mr Moss. I’m Gabriel.”

That’s right, I had finally decided to ask Susie to marry me.

Jamie, in his infinite wisdom, had decreed that we needed to practice my first meeting with her father.

The trouble was, neither of us had a clue what Mr Seeley Moss was actually like.

So, Jamie improvised.

“Sounds like a girls’ name.”

“Um, sir, I can assure you I’m more than enough man for – I mean -“

Jamie started sniggering.

“Way to put your foot in it, Gabe.”

“Oh, shut up, Mr Moss.”

“Oh! I know! He might be an alcoholic!”

Jamie jumped up and ran outside to find an old discarded wine bottle, and then came back.

“Okay, pretend I have a beer belly.”

“What?!”

Jamie put the deep, utterly terrifying gruff voice back on and said, “Do go on.”

“Well, Mr Moss, uh – can I call you Seeley? Well, I want to marry your daughter and -“

“No,” Jamie said firmly, cutting me off.

“No?! Why?”

Jamie leant forward, his voice rough and deadly serious.

“Because I want you for myself.”

I quite literally choked on my own spit.

“But – what?!”

“I’m just trying to prepare you for the unexpected,” Jamie said, his face perfectly sober. “As I said.”

He looked up at me then, placing the wine bottle on the floor with a loud clunk.

“Seriously, though, Gabe… be yourself, and you’ll be fine. I don’t think Mr Moss could hate you if he tried. Unless… you know… he’s like… I don’t know. A terrifying mountain bear man who wants to carry you off to his cave.”

“Thanks, I guess…”

I sighed and moved to sit down on the sofa.

“I don’t know… I don’t know if Susie’s even going to say ‘yes’, yet.”

“Yeah, I’m not helping you practice proposing. That would be slightly too weird.”

I grinned at him.

“Ah, so you do have a line you won’t cross.”

Jamie sighed rather wistfully.

“All this talk of proposing makes me think of Jenna.”

“Hm, I knew you had a thing for her.”

Jamie flushed.

“I don’t think she likes me that way. She seems quite happy just being friends.”

“Have you told her how you feel?”

“I think about it sometimes, but… I don’t want to lose her as a friend. That would hurt more than her rejecting me, I think. I don’t know… I just think all the time about kissing her, and taking her for walks down by the river… and her skin looks so soft. Sometimes I just stare at her at school and don’t pay attention in class…”

He went scarlet as he suddenly remembered that he wasn’t alone.

“I mean, er…”

“It sounds like you’re in love,” I told him bluntly, although I wasn’t exactly the most knowledgeable person on that particular subject.

Jamie smiled at that, though his cheeks were still stained red.

“I might be.”

Then, he shook his head and abruptly changed the subject.

“So, have you decided where you’re going to propose to her?”

“I don’t know,” I replied, suddenly feeling out of my depth. “I was hoping you would have some ideas.”

“That’s something you have to figure out on your own, Gabe. It’s your special moment, not mine.” He grinned. “I already know exactly where I’m going to propose to Jenna.”

I blinked at him.

“You’re getting a bit ahead of yourself, aren’t you?”

“Well… yes, but if it happens… I know where I’m going to do it.”

I turned the conversation back to the matter at hand.

“Yes, okay… but how do I know where the best place to do it is?”

Jamie smiled at me.

“I think you just… know.”

Despite myself, I found myself smiling back.

Thinking about it, I think I know the perfect place.

***

I know you’re probably really excited to hear about how my proposal to Susie went and – in fact – I was planning on writing in here the next time after I’d actually proposed, but Jamie’s as much a part of my story as I am and I just witnessed an intriguing scene between him and Jenna that I just had to note down before I forget. That was a really long sentence.

(I hope he doesn’t still read this… Jamie, if you are reading this, kindly skip the next few pages.)

(Aw, crap, if you are reading this, then you know about that thing with Kami… that’s awkward…)

Anyway…

This evening, Jenna stayed later than usual and it was dark out. Jamie offered to walk her home, being the nice boy that he is, but she declined, opting instead to phone her mum to come and pick her up.

Whilst they waited for Jenna’s lift, the two of them decided to watch the stars together.

I will admit to spying on them through the kitchen window. I felt rather like a mother watching over one of her brood, so that was okay. I think.

I couldn’t help but notice that Jamie’s attention was more focused on Jenna than the stars. He really is rather obvious, but I don’t think Jenna noticed. At all.

Actually, it was a little amusing to watch, though I did want to shout to Jamie to just tell her already.

The closest he got to confessing was resting his hand briefly on top of hers, though he withdrew it pretty quickly and pretended that it was an accident. Jenna looked rather surprised, I must admit.

It’s kind of a shame that Jamie can’t gather the courage to tell Jenna how he feels about her, though I understand where he’s coming from. It’s taken him so long to make friends that he doesn’t want to ruin that with a misplaced word or a misread emotion.

But who knows what the future will hold?

***

After much deliberation, I decided that the place I wanted to propose was Lost Willow Park. I had thought about the gazebo in town, where we had first met, but the park held a lot more significance in my mind. It was the place I had stayed when I had first arrived in Riverview. It was the place I had first told someone the truth about what had happened with James Frank.

And now, it would be the place where Susie either made me the happiest man on earth… or crushed my heart.

“You know, Gabe,” Susie said, stroking my arm and laughing. “There must be a reason you brought me here today. It’s not often I see you without your hat.”

This was it.

Swallowing hard, I took Susie’s hand and slowly got down on one knee. She stared at me and I watched the emotions swirl over her face as she slowly understood what exactly it was that I was doing.

“Gabriel…”

“Well, Susannah Moss…”

I pulled the ring box out of my pocket, shaking with nerves and taking care not to drop it. That would look really stupid, and I didn’t want to look stupid in front of Susie. Not today.

This was definitely it.

I was really going to do this.

No going back.

“Will you marry me?”

There was a moment of shocked silence, before Susie burst out, “Yes, yes! A thousand times yes!”

Trembling, I slid the ring onto her finger and gently kissed the back of her hand.

“Thank you.”

Then, I stood and pulled her into a gentle kiss. I actually felt as though I was going to pass out, so I concentrated on Susie and my lips on hers, and the way my fingers tangled in her golden hair.

Whilst I was busy proposing, ants invaded our picnic. I stared in horror at the ruined meal for a long moment, before Susie started to laugh.

Nervously, slowly realising that she didn’t suddenly hate me forever for the bug invasion, I started to laugh as well.

After all, nothing at all could ruin such a perfect day.

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Catastrophe Ahoy!

Edit: Hi, guys. This is Emy now. I was informed I’d have to replace my laptop’s motherboard in order to fix it, which would cost almost as much as a new laptop. With the other issues I’ve had with my laptop, I decided buying a new one would be more cost effective. I have a new one now, but I need to rescue things from the hard drive this weekend. Then I can re-install sims and hopefully everything will be good. *crosses fingers* I’m hoping nothing will be too delayed by this.

Emy xx

 

This is catcrunchies, just letting everyone know that Emy’s having some serious computer issues and she won’t be able to put up a new chapter for a while. In case anyone is a computer buff and can help, when she tries to turn on her laptop, the screen stays black and it beeps three times, like beeeeeeep beep beep.

Hopefully this will be resolved soon and she can get back to posting up her simmy stories. =[

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Interlude – Jamie’s Story

A/N: Hi, guys. Make sure you’ve read 1.04 first, since I got these two up quite soon after each other!!

First of all, let me tell you that this is OPTIONAL reading. As in, you won’t miss anything of Gabe’s story if you don’t read this.

Second of all, this is probably one of the darkest things I’ve ever written (and I’m a bit worried about posting it), so let me warn you there are DISTURBING THEMES ahead. However, I hope I’ve handled the issues in this post sensitively, and most things are implied rather than explicit. I hope I haven’t crossed any lines. Reader discretion is advised.

That said, I’ll leave you in Jamie’s hands and he can tell you his story.

Dear Gabriel…

Yes, I am writing in your journal. But I guess if you’re reading this you already knew that. Oops. I didn’t read any. Well, maybe just a little bit. The first couple of pages, maybe. *shifty eyes* >.>

This is Jamie, by the way. In case you didn’t guess by the messy handwriting. I think Kami’s would be neater, you know? Kind of curly. Maybe with hearts over the i’s. Or skulls and crossbones or something.

Oh, yes… you might want to know the reason I’m writing in here. Well…

It’s a moonless night, and I can’t sleep. Kami’s snores are echoing in from the bedroom. Okay, maybe they aren’t, but it’s her fault we’re sleeping on this floor every night. I know you’re annoyed about it too, Gabe, so don’t deny it! Just ’cause she’s like… your oldest friend or something. I hope you don’t still have a crush on her – you’re meant to be dating Susie! She’s much nicer. D:<

Sorry, I didn’t mean to lecture you in your own journal. What I meant to say was, well, as I kind of accidentally-on-purpose read about your past, I thought it only fair that I tell you mine. After all, you’ve done so much for me and you’re practically my dad now and all… and I’d never be able to tell you all this out loud. So yes… I’m writing it down. In your journal.

Sorry about that, descendants of Gabriel reading this in the far-flung future! Guess I’m kind of butting in. ^^;

Now where to start?

Oh, I guess I’ll start with my toddler-hood. Like you did, Gabe.

Now’s probably a good time to mention that I’m an identical twin. Yep. When we were little, my parents would tell the difference by dressing me in blue and my twin, Arthur, in green. We were the cutest toddlers for miles around… even if I do say so myself.

My mother, Alice, was amazing.

Perhaps I’m biased.

I don’t really remember much of her except the smell of soap and roses, and the feel of her hair when it tickled my nose. I do remember she was blonde, but other than that… I don’t really have much memory at all of what she looked like. Just faint… impressions, I guess you’d call them.

My father, Grant, well… he’s where me and Arthur got our red hair from. I was always his favourite, though parents aren’t meant to have favourites. I mean, he loved us both, but it was me he let climb on the sofa with him when he got home from work and me he’d come to first if we were both screaming our heads off.

It didn’t really matter to Arthur that I was our father’s favourite. He was always a Mummy’s boy, anyhow.

And it mattered even less because, in my eyes, Arthur came first. And in his eyes, I came first. That’s just how it was. We didn’t really have many other friends at school, though Arthur was popular with everyone. I was a bit of a loser, whereas he was the ‘cool’ twin. He had this one shirt with a skull on, and all the kids wanted one.

That’s how cool he was.

It didn’t bother me, really. I never wanted to be super popular and I was rarely picked on ’cause Arthur stood up for me. He once punched an older kid right on the nose for pushing me around! He got suspended, but our father bought him some ice cream as a reward and told him not to tell Mum.

I suppose it was because he was older by, like… two minutes. He felt he had to protect me.

But there were some things my brother couldn’t protect me from, and we learnt that all too young.

When we were nine years old, our mother was killed in a car crash.

It was hard, you know? One day, she was there, getting us ready for school, making our packed lunches and waving us off on the bus…

The next, she was gone.

The night after the funeral, our father sent us to bed early. I guess he wanted some time to himself, or perhaps he had seen how much the day had exhausted us. Our eyes were puffy and red-rimmed and there was an ache in our chests that wouldn’t go away.

Arthur gripped my hand under the duvet, his fingers tangling with mine. It was an attempt to comfort me, though I had no idea how to comfort him. We were asleep as soon as our heads touched the pillows.

Sleep soothed us and dulled the pain of grief. At least for a while.

It was past midnight when I woke again, a prickling on the back of my neck alerting me to a presence that wasn’t Arthur. An almost… I don’t know how to describe it. It made me feel uneasy, though.

I peered through the gloom with sleepy eyes.

My father stood in the corner of the room, swaying slightly on his feet. The smart tie he’d been wearing earlier that day had been abandoned somewhere, and his face was pale and drawn. I could smell the stench of booze from my bed.

I felt unreasonably scared of my father at that moment.

I reached over and flicked the lamp on, nudging Arthur with my spare hand.

Arthur woke immediately at my touch, his eyes finding mine, reassuring me. Then he pushed the covers back and got out of bed, turning on his own bedside lamp. I turned over, but couldn’t quite make myself get out of bed. I’d always had a fear of monsters and, even though my father was there and Arthur had got out and hadn’t been eaten… I was still frightened they’d shoot tentacles out from under the bed to grab my feet or something. Even at a time like that…

Don’t laugh, Gabe. I was nine, all right? And I’m sleeping on the floor now, aren’t I? D:

But then, I learnt that there were worse things in the world than any monster that could be hiding under the bed.

“Daddy?” Arthur said. His voice was strangely loud in the silence. “Are you all right?”

At that question, my father snapped.

“Get out of here, Arthur!” he shouted, his voice stumbling and slurring over the words. “You’re sleeping in my bed tonight.”

Arthur’s eyes filled with tears. Our father had never shouted at us like that before, especially not in the middle of the night. In fact, we hadn’t heard him raise his voice above a whisper since the night Mum died. I guess in that short week we had got used to it.

“B-but… I want to stay with Jamie,” Arthur protested, glancing at me and then away again.

I wanted him to stay with me too. I didn’t want to be left alone with this angry man that had replaced our father. My eyes filled with tears to match Arthur’s.

But our father was having none of it.

“Get out of my sight before I give you something to cry about!”

He swung his fist at an imaginary opponent, knocking himself off balance and falling sideways against the wall. Perhaps it seems kind of funny now (though thinking about it makes me sick to my stomach), but back then the two of us were terrified. What had happened to our father to turn him into… into this? Had some demon come and possessed him?

Of course, Arthur skedaddled pretty quickly after that, ducking around him and darting out of the door. Our father swiped at him again with a kind of grieved roar, but missed.

I wanted to run after my twin, but terror had rooted me to the bed.

I stared up at my father as he approached me. He was still unsteady on his feet, and his eyes were bloodshot and wild. His breath came in ragged gasps.

I’m ashamed to say I wet myself.

“Daddy?” My voice trembled. “Daddy, I had an accident. I want Mummy.”

The words were a mistake. He lurched forward, grabbing the end of the bed for support.

“Get your pyjamas off.”

The words were almost a growl. A fleck of spit hit my face.

I scrambled to do as I was told.

I… suppose you can guess what happened next.

When my father was sober, he felt a lot of guilt over what he did to me. He was always buying me presents and apologising and promising it would never happen again. At first, I forgave him, but whenever he drank… he went back on his promise.

Again.

And again.

And again.

I suppose you’re wondering why we didn’t tell anyone. It’s because… because… I don’t know. We were just scared that no one would believe us. Our father was a policeman and all the police were his friends. I got scared that all policemen were like him and I didn’t want to tell anyone in case they didn’t stop it.

In case they did it too.

Arthur tried to protect me, as he always did, but our father took to locking him in the basement. Sometimes he pretended to be me, to try and spare me for at least one night, but our father would always know.

He wasn’t our father for nothing.

***

Sorry, I kind of got tear stains on the pages there… It might be a bit too smudged to read. Oh crap. Sorry. You get the general jist gist though.

Anyway.

It wasn’t until we were almost fifteen that we gathered the courage to run away.

“I don’t know, Arthur,” I said to my brother. “What if he catches us? And where are we going to go?”

“Let’s just get out of here first, okay?” Arthur replied. He was always the brave one, the impulsive one. “Then we can worry about what to do.”

I got to my feet, taking a last look around the room where we had grown up.

“I guess you’re right,” I said, but I felt sick and nervous.

We slept on the streets that night. Well, I slept. I don’t know how much sleep Arthur got. He insisted that he’d got some, at least, but the dark smudges under his eyes said otherwise.

We ran.

We must have hitch-hiked our way across half the country. Luckily the drivers that we stopped wanted little or no money, and were just kind people doing a good turn. You hear some stories, don’t you?

When we arrived in a big city, the sort of place you could disappear without a trace, we headed to the beach to work out our game plan.

It wasn’t much of a beach. The sand was more mud than anything else. The sea had washed old bottles, bits of fishing net, weathered driftwood and crisp packets up on the banks. It was just as well neither of us was in the mood to swim.

That day at the beach was the day we met Claude Smythe.

I don’t know if that was his real name or not (in fact, I doubt it is), but that’s the name he used when I knew him. Claude was a tall and imposing man, with an air of wealth around him. He looked like the type of person that was used to getting what he wanted, even if it meant treading on people to get there.

He was unlike anything we had ever seen before.

“You boys look like you’re lost,” Claude said.

His voice sent chills down my spine, even then. It was like being submerged in a bath of warm honey; pleasant at first, but you’d find yourself sticky and uncomfortable days later.

Claude was a charming spider, and we fell straight into his web.

“We might be,” Arthur said boldy. “What’s it to you?”

Claude smiled, and the chills returned.

“It just so happens I’m in a business where I think two pretty boys like you can go far.”

There was a moment of silence, and then Arthur’s eyes flashed angrily as he realised what Claude was implying.

“We’re not fucking whores,” he spat. “And we’ll never be whores. So you can fuck right off.”

Claude laughed.

“I do like a boy with some fight in him,” he said smoothly. When Arthur just scowled at him, he continued, “I wasn’t talking about prostitution.” He emphasised the word delicately. “I was talking about the porn industry. You both could just about pass for eighteen and, well, there’s a certain niche market for twins.”

“I told you to fuck off,” Arthur snarled at him.

“Arthur?” I ventured. “We do need money, a-and a place to stay and stuff.”

Claude laughed again, appraising me with his eyes.

“Your brother is smart,” he said to Arthur. “It just so happens I have a spare room where you can lodge in return for a couple of videos.” He paused for effect. “What do you say?”

Arthur seemed to deflate in front of me.

“Just a couple of videos?”

“That’s what I said.”

Arthur hesitated for a long moment, before saying quietly, “All right. We’ll do it. But no one touches my brother.”

Claude only smiled. The warmth didn’t reach his eyes.

Arthur turned and met my gaze. There was a sadness there that hadn’t existed before. Did he feel like he’d let me down somehow by agreeing to Claude’s tempting offer?  Did he already think – know? – that he’d made a mistake?

Claude took us to an unobtrusive blue house at the edge of the city. It certainly didn’t look like the kind of place where porn was made and circulated, but (as Arthur pointed out) a business like that would do well to remain under the radar.

When we were shown to our new room and left to our own devices, Arthur wrapped his arms around me. I clung to him.

“I’m sorry, Jamie,” he told me. “We’ll get out of here as soon as we get some money. This is only temporary.”

“I know,” I said softly.

If only we had known then just how wrong we were. The gift of hindsight is a double-edged sword, isn’t it, Gabe?

***

And so, the process of making a video began. Claude set up a video camera on the chest of drawers in the bedroom and settled himself down on a beanbag in the corner to direct us. The red light on the camera winked lustfully.

“I want you to kiss,” Claude told us.

Though we had been expecting it, the words, said so bluntly, shook both of us. My stomach flipped over, but I stood frozen to the spot. The camera had trapped me, like a bug suspended in amber.

Arthur’s fists clenched and he looked away, his jaw tightening. It looked as though he was about to refuse.

“It’s okay,” I whispered. “Let’s just do what he says, okay?”

Arthur nodded almost imperceptively.

He leant forward and cautiously pressed his lips against mine. My stomach twisted nervously and it took everything I had not to pull away from him.

This is Arthur, I told myself. He won’t hurt me.

But I remained frozen, resistant to the gentle, reluctant kiss.

Arthur pulled away after a brief moment. His eyes were angry and ashamed, his cheeks flushed with frustration. He couldn’t – wouldn’t – meet my eyes.

“We can’t do this,” he said, and I wasn’t sure whether he was talking to himself or Claude. “He’s my brother. It’s wrong, it’s -“

“You will do this,” Claude said firmly, cutting him off. “You already owe me a debt, and unless you want me to sell your brother’s prettly little ass to cover it, you’ll do as I say.”

Arthur’s chin jerked up stubbornly, though I noticed that he trembled. Every instinct in my body told me to run, but the memory of the large bodyguards watching television in the living room downstairs stopped me.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention them. Claude, being rich and privileged, didn’t actually live in this house. He had an entourage of bodyguards and the ones that were not serving him on any given day stayed here. Downstairs. They were tall, muscular men – and utterly loyal to Claude. We didn’t stand a chance.

“What if we left?” Arthur said, seemingly forgetting about that particular inconvenience. “What would you do then?”

“I have many friends in the city,” Claude said, his mouth twisting in a sinister smile. “They would make sure the debt was paid. One way or another.”

Arthur looked away, defeated. Claude smirked.

“Now… kiss him like you mean it or we may have to… rethink your contract.”

His words seemed to ignite something in Arthur, because suddenly his lips were crashing against mine and his arms were wrapping around my body, pulling me close. I closed my eyes, letting him kiss me, wishing that I’d never put in a preference for money and somewhere to stay. We should have just stayed on the streets.

I felt dirty and degraded, and I hated that it was my brother’s touch that was making me feel that way.

Too soon, I found myself naked on the bed in Arthur’s arms. His hands hovered uncertainly at my back and on my arm, aware what Claude was expecting us to do but reluctant, unwilling to go any further.

We couldn’t put it off forever, though, and eventually Arthur pushed me down on my back on the bed, trying to reassure me with gentle kisses. I didn’t resist; this was hard enough for him as it was.

But I was unable to stop the hot, shameful tears that slid down my cheeks.

It didn’t help that Claude had stripped off and was reclining on the bed, watching us with eyes that missed nothing. I had the awful feeling that he was intending to join in as soon as things had heated up.

But it wasn’t to be.

Arthur noticed my tears and pulled back. There was pain in his eyes.

“I – I can’t do this,” he whispered, and there was pain in his voice too.

He jumped up off the bed, startling both me and Claude. Well, I think Claude was startled. I certainly had never seen him move that fast before.

“We’re not doing this!” Arthur shouted. “We’re not going to be part of your sick little games!”

Claude was standing in front of him by this point. I’d sat up, struggling to contain sobs. I felt so exposed, so pathetic and so unsure. What was going to happen now?

“You can threaten us all you want,” Arthur continued, unfazed by the fact he was naked and Claude was rather more muscular than he was. “We’re leaving.”

“I told you before, brat,” Claude returned, his voice angry now. Dangerous. “You can’t leave.”

And then, Claude hit Arthur hard across the face. There was a smack and a crack, and a horrible thud as Arthur’s head hit the bedpost and then the floor.

He didn’t get up.

Arthur!”

I scrambled up from the bed and slumped to the floor beside him, panicking and terrified and anguished and everything in between. Arthur’s eyes were open and glassy, staring up at the ceiling. Blood trickled sadly from the corner of his mouth.

Shaking, I lifted his head from the floor.

“Arthur? Arthur, wake up. Please…”

My hands grew warm and damp where they cradled Arthur’s head. When I lowered it to the floor again and pulled my hands away, they came away red and slick with blood.

Bile rose in my throat and I vomited on the carpet, coughing and choking on tears.

What was I supposed to do now?

“Get up.”

Claude’s voice broke into my grief, and I didn’t know what else to do but obey.

I rose slowly to my feet, feeling like a stranger in my own body. Claude looked me over with his cold eyes, as though I was a piece of meat he suddenly didn’t know what to do with.

“And what am I going to do with you now?” he mused. His voice was amused.

For the first time in a long while, I felt anger. It bubbled up inside me and boiled over, and I felt my control break.

“You killed him!” I screamed, launching myself foward and punching and hitting and scratching any part of Claude I could reach. “You killed my brother!”

But Claude was stronger than me and soon I found myself pinned to the bed. My nose was bleeding and every breath I took was soaked with blood. I could barely see through my tears.

“Let’s see if that pretty little ass of yours is any good,” Claude hissed, his nails digging painfully into the skin of my chest. “For your sake, you’d better hope it is.”

I don’t remember much of the night that followed. I’ve tried to block it out.

There’s just pain. Red, angry, humiliating pain.

And an empty hole where my brother should be.

***

Sorry. This account is not going to be very legible, is it? Not if I keep crying on it and making the ink run.

I just… I miss him. Arthur. Some days I feel like only half a person.

But you probably want to know how I got away.

Claude began to sell my body to anyone that would pay.

I was numb, at first. Numb and terrified. I tried hard to please the customers, scared that Claude would hurt me again. Scared that he would kill me like he’d killed my brother.

But Claude took what he wanted no matter how good a job I did, and it became harder and harder to make myself please the men who came to visit.

Until, eventually, I gave up altogether.

Claude, of course, noticed. Customers started to complain and refused to pay their dues. When there was money involved, Claude wouldn’t let them be unsatisfied for long.

“After everything I’ve done for you, this is how you repay me!” he shouted when he confronted me.

I shrank back, shaking my head, too scared of him to protest. To stand up for myself.

He jabbed his finger at my chest.

“You’re nothing but a filthy whore,” he snarled. “Do you really think you can defy me?”

“I – I’m sorry…”

He backhanded me across the face and shoved me back against the banister. My nose, which hadn’t quite healed from the last time he’d hit me, started to bleed again.

“I own you, James,” Claude said, his voice as soft as a caress. “Don’t you ever forget that.”

And then, he was gone.

I slumped to the floor, burying my head in my hands as I started to cry.

“Arthur, please give me the strength to escape,” I begged the bloodstain on the carpet; no matter how much Claude had made me scrub the floor, that little piece of my brother still remained. “Please.”

In a sudden rush, adrenaline pulsed through me.

I grabbed my clothes from the side and pulled them on, before racing down the stairs and out the doors past the baffled and started bodyguards. They shouted and gave chase, but something drove me on, faster and faster. I kept running even when my chest started to burn. I kept running when my legs turned to fire as my muscles seized and fought against me. I kept running even when every breath was agony.

And suddenly, mercifully, I lost them.

The night was still, silent. The air was cold and calming on my fevered skin, soothing my racing heart. I almost collapsed in a puddle of tears right there on the street, but made myself stumble and stagger on until I reached the cover of some trees. I needed to hide, needed to get out of there.

But once in the woods, I could go no further. Relief and grief and horror and pain hit me in one violent wave and I fell to the ground, clutching at myself with my hands. Literally trying to hold myself together, trying to hold in the sobs.

But, I was free.

And, at that moment, nothing else mattered.

***

So, that’s my story, Gabe. You know the rest, seeing as you’ve lived it too. I don’t want this to change anything between us. I don’t want you to treat me any different now that you know the truth.

I’m strong. I’m working my own way through this. I don’t think I could cope now if you start treating me as though I could shatter. I just… I felt it was only fair you knew. I want you to know.

I love you, Gabe. Dad.

It’s thanks to you that I’ve finally begun to heal.

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